Saturday, 13 September 2008

Paul Insect - Poison show

London, 12 - 21 Sep 2008

Sleazy hookers, cartoon pimps, retro Ford Capri motors and un-usual whispered business offers are all part and parcel of the Kings Cross experience, though regulars may find Paul Insect’s Poison show at Caledonian Road scrapes the knife a little too close to the brain and retina for comfort.

Mandatory street references have been provided by Insect in London Town since the Spring of this year with the scattering far and wide of Baby’s heads, from small stickers to big paste ups.

Farringdon Road, London, March 08

A plethora of baby heads with their cutaway skulls ask Steve Pinker-ish questions about thought processes, subconscious, innate mental programming and generally set a theme for the major works in the rest of the temporary space. In addition to a set of five babies with circuit boards, inner eyes and general abstract psychedelia, babies have been pasted all over the wall and part of the ceiling to create a crushing and vaguely sinister foetal soup.

Bunny Heads – photo: Wallkandy

A set of glossy colourful cartoon-ishly disfigured religious icons are described as acrylic on found religious iconography but the underlying icons look un-lived, un-marked and a bit fresh mounted on smooth sharp gold paper. If these came from the reject skip at a Coptic church’s rehang then it was a truly remarkable find.


The second room with its semi relief columns may remind Pictures On Walls of mid budget porn and we thank them for the enlightenment, but it really is the room where this show comes into its own. 18 unique paintings on canvas and wood touch on themes including drugs, sex, imagination, mental processes and psychological destabilisation. Oh yes, and skulls.

Collective Action 1

There are huge amounts of anatomy going on with portraits including misplaced organs and luridly coloured tracts and passages like a warped medic’s encyclopaedia.

Language Is Not Transparent

The brain comes for close examination in several pieces but rather than attributing zones to various memory types, senses or control function, Insect uses colours and wild hair to illustrate the brains lightening electric response to various stimuli.

Killer Clown

The pictures also seem to guide us towards a sense of the type of stimuli, and it looks like the key influences are those two human staples, sex and drugs. Pictures of girls kissing will have probably been the subject of a lot of the audience’s research on the internet, its hard to fail with that kind of subject matter though here we see not so much the act as the wild response triggered by this passion in the girl’s minds.

Eternal Kiss

There is also a sense that whilst the kiss may be lasting or eternal, perhaps the kiss is even fatal as close scrutiny and analysis suggests the kiss could well be a Transylvanian bite on the jugular – which will often provoke a degree of excitability in the kissee’s head.

Lasting Kiss

Some of the pieces are done on canvas but quite a few are on wood such as this supercharged crackling killer clown. Greed is possibly the trigger that has got his synapses discharging wildly into the void. Nice touch with the dribbles too.

Killer Clown 2

Back to the use of colour and eruption to embody a thought, Dreaming of Colours is included here for no reason other than it is initially my favourite piece. Is anyone else thinking “Shakespeare’s Sister”?

Thinking Of Colours

The central feature of this second room is a heavy glass table mounted on a bunny girl skeleton on all fours. This submissive sex symbol has met her end gazing at herself in the mirror.

Skeleton Table –Looking good

Her objectification and subjugation is captured in the detail of the pose right down to the stiletto boned feet.

Skeleton Table – These Heels Are Killing Me

On a practical level, the skeleton must, hopefully, be fabricated with some rigidity, the cool trick is that the eye sees a heavy table top on a skeleton but the mind needs assuring that the bones aren’t going to collapse in a percussive pile under the load.

Skeleton Table – photo Wallkandy

Through to the Hirst bait in the final room, a macabre bunny mausoleum which is absolutely mesmeric. A dozen playgirl of the month sculptural bunny skulls ghoulishly confront eachother with their death’s triumph grins and garish bunny ears, like a Hugo Heffner hosted goth fandango.

Playgirl Of The Month – Annual Review (photo: Wallkandy)

Subtle details like the canines in one skull and gold tooth in another provide more than mere differentiation, there’s actually personality. No actual personalities were harmed in the creation of these artefacts, the ingredients are described as bronze, stainless steel, cocobola (googlygook: exotic hardwood from South America), enamel paint, 24 carat gold.

Playgirl Reveals All

We may all be jaded by street art clichés and skulls are at the top of the list of offenders but it’s a relief to say that Paul Insect has taken the device and the image and successfully avoided the skulls-and-metal trite symbolism, using them in a totally refreshing and different way. Obviously this isn’t art for hanging on the staircase or over the radiator in the utility room and prices reflect that, though Damien might possibly negotiate a buy-11-get-1-free deal.

Folk who hanker after the pre-historic era of 40 quid Insect prints on the internet may be sated by the number of relative small edition prints for sale.

Insect is an artist who without doubt is playing in the Champions league rather than the Premiership, the pieces in the second and third rooms have a contemporary art sensibility that is appealing to a style ethic way beyond the basic I-like-graff-writer-stuff-in-my-lounge. The quality of the work and the presentation and lighting is a notch higher than usually accomplished in the street art field. Preceding multi-colourway sub-Warhol Insect work on James Lavelle’s album cover, and those rainbow coloured cows skulls didn’t really move him on much but there is a sense that this ought to be as pivotal as say Banksy’s Crude Oils show in broadening awareness of his work.

Choosing the pictures for this summary was a bit tricky, it might be worth having a look at a broader selection here

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Zezao Highraff Milo Tchais - Pure Evil Gallery

5 Sep 2008

London has vibrant street art, a dynamic culture and glorious weather so it is unsurprising that half of Brazil feels spiritually drawn to Pure Evil’s gallery for a Zezao/Highraff/Milo Tchais show.

sunny spells later, probably

Zezao, Highraff and Milo Tchais have been brightening the streets of Brazil together for over 10 years in an uncharacteristically un-Brazilian non-Pixação psychedelic manner.

Zezao/Highraff/Milo Tchais

This threesome kindly re-painted the walls of the evil one’s gallery, the black background makes the pieces on the ground floor leap off the wall.

Dirty Arse Mother

Milo Tchais has recently been seen rocking his cans on the streets of London as the mysterious 2nd man working with The krah outside The Foundry.

Milo Tchais w/ The Krah, others under

Of the trio, Milo Tchais’ work is most recognisably real world, but always the backgrounds of swirling riotous colour overwhelm shadowy figures lurking on the edges of conciousness.

Milo Tchais – Se Mente

Zezao is most likely to be familiar to European audiences thanks to a feature spot in last year’s Bomb It movie. The movie captured his wholly abstract work in the almost complete darkness of San Paulo’s drain system and the curious method of mixing the colours by dropping them into the flowing stream or damp pipe lining at his feet. His indoor work with its blistered colours on neon stencilled backgrounds work bears little of that San Paulo sewer rat ethos.

Zezao - Untitled

Of the three visitors, Zezou’s is undoubtedly the most abstract. Blistering bubbles are set in chromatic warped colour gradients.

Zezao - Untitled

Highraff attributes the efforts of the three to a purely abstract manner whose meaning is wholly free and up to the viewer to pursue their own interpretation. His work bears the largest debt to a graphic design heritage. The organic shapes suggest tubular plants or acid cactii buds.

Highraff – Lilac Painting

All Highraffs pieces are exquisitely executed, the common element being segmented tubular eruptions with a manga style delineated shading effect, close inspection suggests an effect or technique are not unlike Insa’s booty arses and legs.

Highraff - Untitled

Highraff also has a biblical origins-of-universe boiling light and molten eruptions thing going on. Curiously, I felt a strange longing for a pizza.

Highraff – Orange Series

This is the first time all three members of this Brazilian crew have exhibited in dedicated group show and their relish of the experience is evident in the way they continuously limbo back and forth across the grubby dungeon floor in their swimming thongs [not pictured]. In celebration, they have produced a pair of enormous lurid pieces, spraycan on Perspex, which is helpful given the rain that pissed down on them from the exposed skylight part of the Evil basement.

Zezao Highraff milo Tchasi collab. Perspex, gallery balloons, deluge

Some might find the work of all three artists reminiscent of Andrew McAtee without the formality and crispness.

Health and Safety culture in this country has as we all know gone berserk, now even Pure Evil feels obliged to issue a warning to anyone who has difficulty putting one foot in front of the other.

Lab Rats Enter At Own Peril

It ain’t a competition but we are allowed to have favourites and for me, Milo Tchais’ bright and contrasting colours and higly dramatic swirling patterns made an un-compromising brilliant impact. This show is an absolute must see for fans of the genre, it has been an over-abundance of riches to have this show following the night after Titifreak opening at O Contemporary. Combine the two for a magic day in London.

Milo Tchais - Sublime

Its well worth seeing quite a few more photos of the show, upstairs and downstairs here:

Friday, 5 September 2008

Titifreak At O Contemporary

Wardour St, London

5 Sep - 4 Oct 2008

Brazil has been noted for its own unique internally developed form of graffiti, as well as tolerance, possibly even outright encouragement of street art. Some exponents are achieving world wide reputations and these shores have been blessed in the last few months buy a number of key exponents, latest being Titifreak.

Titifreak first came to wider notice in this country around just prior to Santas Ghetto 2006 thanks to PoW. He was around these parts a couple of months ago and dropped this shutter in Brick Lane which the shop owners are justifiably proud of, though it is believed this wasn’t done with permission.

Brick Lane
O Contemporary have chosen a pure blockbuster to christen their new Soho London gallery, the headliner is Titifreak, supported downstairs by a mixture of other Brazilian and British painters and decorators (possibly other nationalities too). The Pichacao shop front signage is a neat touch.
Common forms for much of Titifreak’s work are portraits in bright vibrant colours but with blank and expressionless eyes.


These figures are not zombies, or emotionless beings. Quite the reverse, the emotions of these people are internal, not communicated thorough the eyes but exploding out through the colours and the distortions of the faces.

Plural 2

This works even with two superficially similar pieces, compare the hostility and aggression projected by the figures in Plural 2 above with the sullen hang-dog expression in Plural 1.

Plural 1

If you are looking for clues for new directions, several figures are shown with full bodies which is not that common in his work.

A Mulher do Pastel

Titifreak has worked in a broad range of mediums without loosing his unmistakeable style, such as (this is a shameless device to just stick up a whole bunch of Titifreak pics from the show):

Vivendo No Campo - tar, spraypaint on canvas

5 Min - spraypaint on canvas

Liberdade - spraypaint on wood

Illustration II - ink and spray on paper

There is even a couple (at least) of pieces described as Oil and Beeswax on canvas (no pictures) and a collection of what looked like paint or charcoal on small chopping boards.

A couple of intriguing pieces are suspended bottles with black spraypaint scratched to reveal a characteristic Titifreak silhouetted face. Although the pieces are quite small, factor in the lens effect and you get a lush magnified and fish-eye distorted image.

Uma Dose De

Uma Dose De (detail)

This piece below is probably the epic showstopper. A piece of this scale took Titifreak much longer than he usually spends on an individual painting, worth the time and effort obviously.


More photos of the Titifreak pieces can be seen on flickr here.

I had wanted to say that the other O Contemporary stock artists could stand shoulder to shoulder with Titifreak without losing anything in the comparison but going through the Titifreak pics again you get overwhelmed by their accomplishment. This isn't to say the downstairs is poor, it is also extremely good. Zezou is present, but there will be more about him hopefully after his opening tomorrow at Pure Evil’s gallery. The others which shouldn’t be overlooked include Daniel Melim, seen at the original Cans and working here with emulsion, spraypaint and stencil on canvas.

Daniel Melim – Passagem2

There are a couple of awesome pieces by Alexander Resende, this explosion of colour clearly merits its title “Genesis” (which isn’t a reference to a proggy old school rock band).

Alexander Resende - Genesis

Speto has a couple of pieces worked in acrylic, spraypaint and marker.

Speto - Corujinha

This is Flip using tempera on wood, join me in the dunces class if you thought that was something to do with sushi.

Flip – Ipe Negro

Brits on show included Gerald Laing, John Simpson plus others. No pics – arrived quite late at the show and having drooled over the Titifreak there wasn’t really time to point the pinhole at everything.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

HipArt ExPreSSions Show

Brick Lane Gallery, London
3 Sep – 8 Sep 2008

Cycled over to Brick Lane to see the HipArt show at Brick Lane Gallery, stopping to photograph loads of paste ups by The Krah. None of them were repetitions so big props for that but one stupid consequence was arriving in Brick Lane with a camera battery wheezing asthmatically, those batteries just can’t keep up.

You can get all conspiratorial if you wish about the number of times Pam Glew has been mentioned here recently but the simple truth is her scary chicks on flags rocks and she’s been busy in galleries here there and every where (and we don’t have any, so as always no self interested bigging-up here). All her stuff tonight looked a bit brighter and livelier that the originals seen recently. One worth mentioning is the print edition “Crime Scene” downstairs, she’s used some really fussy posh printer bloke apparently and the surface texture, visible even under glass is quite impressive. Don’t be fooled by the price tag, after a bit of probing Pam yielded that this included the frame and was quite a bit cheaper without the frame, good if you hang your prints with blu tack.

Breaking off only to demonstrate the rudiments of opening free bottles of beer (the bottle opener you shall be using, Master Grafter), the eye was caught by K-Guy stuff downstairs. K-Guy always has some thought out well developed idea in his pieces for which huge respect. The execution of this “Shop Till It Drops” with its handle with care, absolutely no refunds message is quite superb, the un-usual matted chipboard kind of material giving a great texture.

K-Guy: Shop Till You Drop

The idea is sufficiently different that the use of a shopping trolley doesn’t really feel like a steal. Unlike the adjacent “Bird Of Prey” with its wings and guns which does feel like a recycling of a significant portion of the street art cliché library.

K-Guy: Birds Of Prey

Lots of irony in the place, sorry, I mean Irony, including the frequently seen on street walls choker girl in a lush edition of 4. Favourite Irony piece on show was the Mind The Gap.

Irony – Mind The Gap

It was nice to see Maya’s work in real life for the first time though it didn’t really have the attention grabbing ability of her street work, seen in many flicks online. Perhaps comparatively simple stencils need a bit more than a cosmic background when transferring to walls indoors.

Maya – Super 8 Simon

Speaking of clichés, there’s not much further down the barrel to go when DogByte’s disco balls hanging off helicopters makes Static look like a pioneering conceptual guru.

Kendra Binney, new to these eyes has doe-eyed females on a glossy rinsed out herbal green background.Gorgeous colours, worth checking out.

The cool thing about this show was its affordability. If you have a tight budget and fancy something streety and a bit classier than number XYZ from an edition of 700 bought off ebay for an arm and a leg, it is quite possible from this selection of artists to find something like an original canvas or very low edition artist-finished piece in the couple of hundred price range. Not true in every case though.

It has become apparent that hardly any of you read these words, you all just skim over the pictures and as at this point the batteries rolled over, so here endeth the wordy bit. Which is just as well, how many more hirst spots rip-offs and gun details can we possibly hack. A demain and allons y au Titifreak! (actually, if it wasn’t for a major over-riding domestic engagement, I’d have a huge dilemma with Titifreak in Soho vs Stencil History down in Brighton, and don’t tell me do one Thursday and one Friday cos Friday is already booked for Zezou at Pure Evil’s – more Brazilians around here at the moment than a yummy mummy’s bring-and-buy bikini sale.

K-Guy – Love Hate

Monday, 1 September 2008

Cans2 Recycled Revisited

One of the unique charms of London’s art galleries is their enlightened welcome of members of the public who can add their own enhancements to the displayed works and correct the principal artist’s shortcomings. Actually no but in the case of the Leake Street tunnel there ain’t no stopping anyone with a spray can getting their piece up.

A swift return to the Cans Recycled site just 8 days after it opened revealed a number of large scale additions, a bit of going over and a lot of additions to the all-comers exit ramp area.

Sweetest new piece is undoubtedly this one by Petro


The roadworks have been completed since last weekend and the removal of the fenced off holes permits better shots of pieces in that area. It is much easier to see how the head of Conor Harrington’s horse connects to the fire-breathing mouth of AlexOne’s dragon.

Conor Harrington/AlexOne

Xenx’s flora and fauna fantasy land can be captured in all its glory – ultrawide and leaking across the floor.



Mode2 has also been in town.



Prize for the most confrontational going over goes to London’s Oker who have sprayed over the crisp piece left by Bristol’s What Crew (Richt, 45RPM).

Will Barras’s car piece was done on cardboard in-fill to the windows, and those bits of cardboard had been signed on the back. That was recklessly mentioned on one website and un-surprisingly it is now a very windy windowless ride. All the other vehicles are beginning to look like some has taken a sledge hammer and angle grinder on their daytrip to Waterloo.

More pictures of these plus other throwies in the flickr set here


Cans Festival proved to be something Graffoto had to devote far more than this post to, here is the full set of related posts:

Cans Festival - the first preview night visit
Cans Festival - Let Us Spray - what went on in Banksy's pet project, the public access spray zone
Banksy, No Lions, Eelus Group Show - Banksy wanted anyone apart from artists to take up stencilling, we accepted the challenge
Cans Festival - One More Sniff - How the Cans wall art evolved in the first month or so after the event
Cans Recycled - First Peek - An un-scheduled sneak peek at the second version of Cans Festival when the tunnel was closed for a few days.
Cans Recycled Opens - Like it says on the tin
Alphabet Soup - The Cans 2 Letter Hunt - A Rarekind of letter game played at Cans Recycled
Cans2 Recycled Revisited - more.